Many actors become rappers if they have the talent. Many rappers also become actors if they have the talent. Will Smith, Ice Cube, Xzibit, Drake, and Common are some of the names that come to mind, but now I’ve got a new name to add to that list, Childish Gambino. You may recognize him as Troy on the NBC show Community, or the even more successful Derrick Comedy sketches, the film Mystery Team, and as an Emmy-winning writer for 30 Rock. Truth is, Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino, is one of the hardest working people in the industry right now, balancing both a music, acting, comedy, and writing career almost seamlessly.
Gambino first began releasing music in 2008 with his self-released debut album Sick Boi. The album was a success on the internet, which inspired five more releases (Poindexter, I Am Just A Rapper, I Am Just A Rapper 2, Culdesac, and EP) from 2009-2011 before he was able to release his debut studio release, Camp. Released on Glassnote records, Camp is not only a stylistic, but also a lyrical step forward for Gambino, whose raps consisted mostly of talking about his d***, his chicks, and his money. Personally I felt like his lyrics became much more relatable and interesting around the release of I Am Just A Rapper 2. He had fully taken on the responsibilities of his Childish Gambino personality, and he ran with it. Although d***s, chicks, and money is still extremely prevalent in his music, there’s a clever and usually wildly funny punchline to accompany it.
Earning a degree in Dramatic Writing at NYU, Glover is a skilled and able wordsmith, which is what makes Gambino’s raps not only smooth, but wickedly clever. One of my favorite lines on the whole album occurs on the album’s first single, “Bonfire”, and it goes, “You’re my favorite rapper now, yeah dude I better be, or you can f***ing kiss my ass, Human Centipede!” I mean, if you guys need any reason to go to college, let this be it. You can graduate, start working with Tina Fey on a daily basis, and then become a world famous rapper as a side-job.
Along with the great lyrics that are expected from Gambino come equally as engaging beats and rhythms. When performing live, Donald tends to use a live band as opposed to pre-recorded background. This may in some ways explain the layered and sometimes surprisingly alternative beats that come from him and his team. The result is not only one of the best releases of the year, but also Gambino’s best release ever. Even if you don’t like his voice, check out Camp just for the lyrics, they’re guaranteed to make you crack a smile or even burst out laughing.
Best Track: Bonfire and Backpackers